tv Newsmakers CSPAN March 14, 2010 10:00am-10:30am EDT
and all weekend, continuing coverage of this year's tuscon festival of books. find the entire weekend's schedule at book tv.org. >> obama and his socialistic ideas, the government ran the car companies and the banks and deciding salaries, this is a life lesson in progress right now for conservatives. >> tonight, founder and president of the clear booth loose policy institute on her
work to promote conservative women in leadership roles. tonight on c-span's q and a. >> the health care debate moves to the house budget committee monday as committee members mark up legislation. the budget meeting is part of an effort to put the matter to a vote by march 18. cq says democrats want to have the committee approve the bill under expedited procedures. then the house will meet on monday. house speaker nancy pelosi says she hopes to start debate on thursday with votes later in the week. stay tuned late for on c-span. you can read the legislation. see what the president and members of congress are saying and join in the conversation yourself on twitter.
you can also find cost estimates for the bills and hundreds of hours of video from the house and senate floor debate committee hearings, markups and other events. c-span's health care hub, c-span.org/health care. >> next, a senate hearing on the attempted christmas day bombing of a northwest airlines flight. we'll hear comments from government officials at homeland security and other aviation security. this is one of a number of hearings. it's about two hours. the hearing will come to order.
let me welcome senator scott brown. this is a committee that senator collins and i have been on for some years now. we're proud of what we've been able to do. it is, as you know, a very bipartisan committee and i think it's probably why we've been able to accomplish a lot over the years. i would say with particular regard to this committee, it's very hospitable to independent minded senators. >> from new england. >> from new england particularly. welcome. this is the committee's fourth hearing in a series that senator collins and i have begun to examine the extensive reforms made to our intelligence systems both after september 11, 2001, but particularly at the five-year anniversary point from the enactment of the 9/11
commission reforms. our goals here are to review where we've been, how we're doing, to identify weaknesses that remain in the system and to make recommendations for administrative reform or legislation that are needed to correct those weaknesses. of course, these hearings have taken on added significance in the aftermath of the christmas day terrorist attack or attempted attack in which the terrorist unfortunately exposed some weaknesses in our homeland defenses. the last two hearings that we've done in this series gave is a broad overview of the human mistakes and systemic or structural short comings that contributed to the christmas day attack. today we're going to look at two of the most important components of our government's efforts to deny terrorists the
ability to travel to the united states, and that is the creation and use of terrorism watch lists, and the passenger pre-screening mechanisms that use these lists to identify dangerous individuals, potentially dangerous individuals. and if in fact we determine there are such to stop them from getting on airplanes coming to the united states. on christmas day, our government was unable to pull together all the intelligence in its possession to stop the terrorist before he got on the plane. this was not a failure to collect information. and unlike the missteps leading up to nine letch, it was not a failure to share it. we knew his father had concerns about his extremism. we had separate intelligence that there was a nigerian unnamed, unidentified, but a
nigerian nonetheless, training in yemen with al qaeda on the air bran peninsula. we heard separately of plans for a christmas time attack on the united states and again separately we knew of a reported telephone intercept that identified a man named omar far uch without his last name as a terrorist. all those dots were on the same table but our government was unable to connect them. in that sense to separate that information out of the enormous massive information our government collects and shares so that this terrorist could be stopped before he acted. we were just plain lucky as we said over and over again that the device he had on him did not effectively explode on that plane. in our first hearing, the director of the national counter terrorism center acknowledged that the center's
information collection and sharing systems need to be smarter, as he put it. and i would add that in an era when google, for instance, can aggregate information for anybody who goes on google, anybody, from scores of web sites and data bases throughout the world, very quickly, it's just unacceptable that nctc does not have the same ability to search and aggregate information across our government's intelligence data base. i think we also need automated mechanisms to connect disparate data points 24/7, 365 days a year, and flag potential threats for analysts to examine. these systems are widely used in the private sector, and need to be adopted by our intelligence community as soon as possible with our help. this case also exposed weaknesses i think in our watch
listing system. our intelligence agencies obviously need to view some of the tips or finger pointing that is sent and given to our government with skepticism. the fact is that some informents may be motivated by spite or rivalry. but most are not. and it's just unacceptable in this case that the terrorist's father, not just his father but a respected business leader in nigeria was not considered a credible enough source for his information to have put his son on the watch list without corroborating evidence. so i hope to hear from our witnesses today how the watch listing process has been modified to ensure that this kind of error will not be made again. another watch listing problem i think concerns the screeng of individuals on the watch list who are not u.s. citizens or permanent residents.
we are historically one of the most welcoming countries in the world to visitors. to immigrants, legal immigrants. but travel to the united states is a privilege, not a right. in my opinion, if the government concludes that there's any reason to believe that someone may have ties to terrorist activities, that person should be required to undergo secondary physical screening at least before being allowed to board a plane bound for the united states of america. being allowed to board a and, finally, we need to dramatically increase our ability to pre-screen passengers domestically and physically. domestically. right now the government only begins to receive important identifying information about international travelers when they check in for their flights. in fact, most of this information is conveyed to the department of homeland security
only after an airplane's doors close which makes it practically impossible for dhs to fully vet passengers before a plane takes off. in fact, that was the case on christmas day and it argues loudly that we find a way to start in-depth vetting in advance of the passengers arrival at the airport, using modern information gathering technologies. we need to ensure that i think the dhs department of homeland security has the identifying information it needs about international passengers, at least 2024 hours before departure. it ensures that all passengers on all flights are systematically checked against the terrorism watch list. so this hearing is in our opinion an important opportunity
to examine the next steps we need to take to continue to strengthen these watch lists and prescreened systems that have been adopted after 9/11 and particularly after the passage of the 9/11 legislation. the fact is we are doing much better at this than we did on 9/11, but what the christmas day bombing attempt shows is that we've got to do better yet to ensure that the next abdulmutallab is not allowed to get on a plane to the united states. we've got a very good group of witnesses before the committee today. i want to say to you before we call on you that i think he got some of the toughest jobs in the u.s. government and therefore you are subject it to disappointment or criticism periodically. i want to thank you for your commitment and service to our
country. senator collins. >> thank you i'm a mr. chairman. i may start by joining you in welcoming senator brown to our committee. we are divided to have you, senator, join this great committee. i think you will enjoy it very much. i understand on the other side of the ideal we are also going to be gaming a member, a second delaware senator, i believe, is coming our way. >> this is true. i'm tempted to make a joke about senator carper, but i think we'll only get me in trouble. >> i thought it was giving a good opportunity. >> i would say one is enough. the senator will be a great addition to this committee and along with senator brown really strengthens our membership. >> thank you. today's hearings focuses on two fundamental questions. why was the christmas day bomber allowed to travel to the united
states and why wasn't his name included on the terrorist watch list? we know it's the chairman has pointed out that abdulmutallab's father had informed the american embassy in nigeria of his islamist extremist connection in vietnam more than a month before he boarded the flight to detroit. we also know that his name was included in the broadest terrorist database known as tied. but despite this alarming information, the system failed to bark transfix from boarding a flight to 53 to america. as i look at this case over and over again, i see missed opportunities from my perspective, the state department rarely have sufficient information to revoke
these officers can ask an airline not to board a passenger who will be prohibited from entering our country upon arrival. those whose visas have been this was another missed opportunity to stop mo tall ab. another mised opportunity to stop him apparently occurred at the national counter terrorism center. the president has stated that there was amp intelligence on him to warrant his inclusion on the no fly list, yet, this did not occur even after his father's warning. it did not oh cur because other streams of nferings intelligence mentioned by the
chairman were not connected until it was too late. a basic question about this missed opportunity is, why did the intelligence community fail to analyze all the available information related to him? some intelligence experts tell me that outmoded computer systems are a factor. despite the vast improvements in information sharing since 2001 and particularly since the bill that we autsrd in 2004, our intelligence community continues to rely on internal systems and processes that are rellics from the days before the intelligence reform and terrorism prevention act of 2004. days before the intelligence reform and terrorism prevention act these outdated systems do not effectively surface information
so security officials can identify threats in real time. security officials can identify threats in real-time. i would like to know what the administration's plans are for upgrading the systems to allow for more effect if searching for terrorist information for google icing, if you will, information across government. for starters, identifying individuals in the databases to a valid u.s. visas should not be that complicated a task. we must also examine how we can better identify individuals who should be on watch list for additional screening at airports. for example, we know that abdulmutallab was identified for additional screening, but only once he arrived in detroit. this identification, as the chairman has pointed out, was done while the flight was in the
air or just after the door had closed. why wasn't that same information used to identify him earlier, before she boarded his flight for additional screening. antonin interview as well, and another missed opportunity. as this case demonstrates, waiting until a suspected terrorist arrived in our country to conduct additional screening is waiting too long, and another missed opportunity. we must continue to strengthen our watch list and screening systems, including evaluating the standards that are now used to include an individual on watch list and look at what standards are used for which watch list and whether they need to be strength and i think evidence. the bottom line is until the
systems work more effectively, work more seamlessly, we will not be able to prevent terrorists from traveling to our nation. thank you i'm among mr. chairman. >> thank you very much, senator collins. do you have anything you'd like to say here at the out that? i'd be happy to give you the time. >> over that to thank you for your warm welcome. obviously it worked with the both of you and obviously senator burris as well and i want to say that i'm honored to be in this committee, having served or still serving in the military for 30 years, it's something i think about every single day. so i'm hoping i can add a little bit to what you are doing and i look forward to serving. thank you. >> thank you. i'm sure you will add a lot. let's go to our witnesses. mr. travers is the deputy for
information sharing and at the net director of national intelligence. the national counterterrorism center is probably one of the least known, most important agencies and our government. we are very proud of its establishment in the 9/11 legislation and the work that it has done since then to protect our homeland security. thank you, mr. travers. welcome her testimony. >> senator collins, members of the committee, it's important to be or to talk about someone's well in the process of the screening. i'd like to first build on your opening comments. i want to push you in the shoes of terrorist identities analyst to give you a sense of the three main challenges that we confront every day. challenge when the party alluded to. it is in fact the quantity and quality of information every day. literally, take terabytes that comment, sometimes described as
vastly exceeding the holdings of the library of congress. it is an immense mod of information. of course we have many tools that will sort insist and highlight those. in the case of nctc we do have 30 or so networks that come in bringing terrorist identity information and remix that down every day to many, many thousands of intelligence report dealing with terrorism. the important point with respect to watch listing is that every day approximately leser minus 10,000 names are coming into the terrorist identities and the community. a 24 operation center helps that that information further down. i'll just give you a sense of what they do. the size of my morning free book on monday morning when i walk in, 842 pages, 1520 pieces of information. and we further will not back down and have a daily video teleconference with the committee. and while we try to do is to
discuss the two or three dozen highest level threat scenarios that are ongoing at the time. we'll have situation reports. we have a daily threat matrix and so forth and telecom began across the center. and with the community, abdulmutallab never made any of that discussion. he was literally done in the noise and that's an issue we need to confront. related to the quantity of material is the issue of quality. and here i fall back on the rather overused metaphor as dot connecting. if you do envision a huge field of dots, many of them have something to do with terrorism. generally fragmentary but a large percentage of them are wrong. some circular reporting, and that can be kind of difficult for us to distinguish. that's challenge one. the second major challenger would confront, remember those 10,000 names i talked about. if we're dealing with sunni extremism in their arabic name for now you have to get past a
western convention of first, middle and last are instead you are dealing with patronymic and ethnic and tribal affiliations and honor by six of the different names will be used for different purposes. it is complex, even assuming that they don't want to hide their identity. the 9/11 hijackers used 300 xt two main variations. a more recent case, zarqawi deceased leader of al qaeda and iraq had 60 some aliases that we knew a and each one of those names could be spelled in upwards of 100 different ways. commonality of names also a problem. let's assume that we have good intelligence that one mohammed al shema is a terrorist. i asked one of my arab linguists to take a look at a middle eastern phone but i'm a 500,000 names. there were 480 exact matches for that name. and that of course gets into the big issue when it comes to false positives. and we often get partial names.
of mohammed from peshawar is a terrorist. that is the functional equivalent of the father of john is a terrorist. it's a huge problem for us. and that brings into the third challenge. what exactly is a terrorist? he swears in modern, tax entries, which we camp in the fata, those are easy. he wasn't a terrorist or an affiliate. what if he gave money to an extremist cause? those are little grayer. what if you give money to an ngo? that ngo support legitimate and extremist causes. what one feels a bookstore that sells mainly extremist literature. what if he's in a chat room or on a web forum styles in clinical and extremist rhetoric. what is under the influence for extremist and goes off to practice not jihads but galois. they give very great in a hurry. the point is we go from very easy cases to very hard. they are in fact gray area for
not gets to the issue of standards that senator collins talked about and that is one issue that community is working its way through. mr. chairman, none of this is an excuse. we are endeavoring very hard to do better. the analytic and watch listing communities are in fact working hard to improve the gaps that were identified on the 25 december. at the presidents direction, nctc is focused on improving the capability we have to pursue fragmentary information as well as to enhance tied records. in that builds on the business processes and technical enhancements that have been ongoing at nctc for many years. i would however caution against the belief that there's any silver technical bullet. we utilize a lot of tools and search capabilities and would like to many, many more. because of the challenges i alluded to before him and notions of a google like search or a federated searcher actually a relatively limited value. we have significant google like searches the local across many message handling systems and we
still would not have come across umar farouk. the further you go across commingling in a single enclave, where you can effectively apply tools, the harder the legal and policy and privacy issues become. or how to speak and talk about that to q&a. in closing, let me reinforce a couple of statements. first it's important to highlight what 1225 wasn't. i agree it does not question the basic watch listing architecture that was set up by homeland security presidential director six and nctc view, the plumbing is right. we can affect password information. standards, procedures they are being looked at from our perspective there could be significant resource implications. we can talk about that. nor is 1225 about information sharing. we certainly got some hard information shared issues. but in this case, virtually every analyst with an
intelligence community have access to the two pieces of key information to which you alluded. rather, 1225 highlighted long-standing and very difficult problem and that is how you identify and integrate fragmentary information when nothing is blinking bright red cared about is the key challenge for us and i look forward to discussing how and ctc is addressing these in the q&a. >> thanks, mr. chair. they're a number of provocative questions which will look forward to discussing with you. timothy healy is the director of the terrorist screening center which is located in the federal bureau of investigation at the department of justice. mr. healy, we thank you for returning to the committee and welcome your testimony now. >> thank you, sir. chairman lieberman, ranking member collins, senator brown, senator burris, thank you for the opportunity to talk about the terrorist screening center and the watch listing process. the attempted terrorist attack to northwest 253 summer 25th highlight the ever present
terrorist threat to our homeland. over the past seven years the tse has played a vital role in the fight against terrorism reintegrating terrorist information from law enforcement and intelligence communities into a single nondatabase known as the terrorist screening center database, tsd beat for the terrorist watch list. this watchlist populates various screening systems used by the government. following the christmas they attack or attempted attack come intense scrutiny has been placed on the requirement to nominate individuals to the watchlist, particularly the no-fly or select the list which are subsets at tsdb. this requirement or standard has gone over time with the watchlist community and the issuance of additional presidential elect us. throughout this process the tsd while simultaneously protecting privacy and civil liberties. as we continue to evolve in response to new threat intelligence or his support been outstanding and if necessary